This is lengthy but if you truly want to know who the your coach is, read below. I am very transparent and honest – I was a broken man. If it weren’t for the grace and love of Jesus Christ, I promise you, I would not be here.
Men of the world feel isolated and helpless with no way out because they have come to believe the lie that they are worthless, that nobody can help them, that nobody loves them, not even God Himself. What a crock! And yet, Christians are lost in how to help men like this because they don’t understand men like this, partly because they run away… from books like Breaking Free From the Shadows. If they are lucky, they run into men who used to be like this and found the light, who’ve accepted Christ, and have hopefully been blessed to hear that man’s story.
Why is this important? Because a fallen world is where a significant percentage of lost men are and this is where Christians need to go – where the lost are. Didn’t God say that He would leave the 99 and go after one lost sheep? God operates through people; therefore, people need to go where the lost are. I was one of those lost sheep.
I don’t have sorrow and tears for where I am today, but I do for the life I missed – 40 years of emptiness and contempt. My sadness is directed at how I had been living a tiny story that was shallow, wasting many years in the Wilderness failing to find the path to the River that would take me away from the dryness of the desert and cross over into the Promised Land. I missed dozens of spiritual opportunities as a result, causing me to miss my calling when I was much younger.
For much of the first 40 years of my life, I was a walking and functioning hate-a-holic. I did not like myself and strove to pull comfort from others, whether they wanted me too or not – rarely giving anything back. My driving force, my motivation, was to become the guy that could get anything done, no matter what and no matter the cost – and I was good at it. I wanted to prove to others that I was accomplished, that I was successful, and that I was worth their attention and approval. Why? Because on the inside I was empty, I was not a good person, and I constantly felt like a failure, that I was a nobody. So, I became obstinate, overly aggressive, overly confident, and brash, feeding the very thing that was damaging me. I hungered to be liked but was, instead, self-destructive.
As I lived my life “for me”, I was ironically destroying myself in the process. As an adult, I pretty much abandoned my wife and my three children to their own wilds, to fend for themselves while I brought home the bacon. And then one day in 2008, He, Jesus Christ, came to me in a very physical way that knocked me to my knees. I experienced His truth of grace and the Fathers tremendous love for me; but the irony is that I wasn’t looking for it, not like that anyway, it just happened, and then I was suddenly awake.
My childhood was a struggle, for some reason I always felt abandoned and that I somehow did not belong where I was. I was untethered and always felt that I was at fault for something, that I did something wrong without knowing what it was; and this was torture, particularly for seven-year-old me. I carried this heart system with me well into my adult life, my marriage, my children, and my military career.
I was a lost child, much of which I can remember only because Jesus worked with me to destroy strongholds blotting those memories out. This doesn’t mean that my parents weren’t there, they were, and I had a lot of cousins, but things were just… off. These feelings would carry with me for years, creating insecurities, sensations of rejection, and loneliness. I had friends, but they did not fill that void inside of me. I was in search of something but I had no idea what it was, making me feel awkward, further feeding into my insecurities. I was alone in my Wilderness Journey, never inviting the One I needed to accompany me.
My teen years were filled with drugs, girls, and parties and I rarely saw my father, and I was ok with that. There were moments of violence, criminality, and moronic activities with some very dangerous and seedy people – and all of this before I turned 17. Some people thought I was a nerd because I was an above average student (at least until my senior year of high school), it certainly fooled my parents. I would often think to myself, “If they only knew the danger I was living around and the chaos I could create based on a simple request.” “They”, being everyone around me: family, friends, school mates, everyone.
There were fun times and lots of family vacations, but today I marvel at how difficult it was for me to see, to recall, those times. They were foggy in my mind while, in contrast, the times of drama and inner conflict were much clearer. When I would search my memory bank for the positive moments, I found that I needed to focus really hard before some images came to me. Sometimes it was necessary for me to actually look at a photograph to bring any recollection to my frontal lobe, and even then I still couldn’t recall some of those fun times even with the picture right in front of me. Why? Because of the condition my heart during those moments, I had constructed strongholds in my spirit and locked those memories away as I travailed my chosen path along my Wilderness Journey.
Simultaneously, I had also locked away some of my own negative behavior and conduct, things I said, things I did. As I am sharing stories with people, my wife in particular will immediately correct me, filling in gruesome, yet essential details that I missed, things that are painful, things that are ugly. I hate those moments because they make me very uncomfortable, and even after she reminds me of them I still can’t remember some of them – not a bit. However, Praise God!! I love my wife even more for it. When she “reminds” me of them, she is reminding me of who I used to be in order to shine the light on who I am today. Not for reasons of judgment or condemnation, but for reasons of celebration and thankfulness. And she always gives the glory and honor to God. Why can’t I remember them? For the same reasons that I could not remember the fun times.
When I was born again in 2008, I was born a new child, but I had also become a Prodigal Father, a lost son of God that was also a father himself. I had not lived up to the life that God asks of us and to this day, the shame of this has been heavy on me. Also, while I did not share details in this book, two areas that kept me from Christ for so long was the bible and church itself. For me to grow in God, this was an area that I needed to get past, move on in order to move forward, and this was difficult for me being that I am both a logical and analytical person. But I did and I will share in Book 2 of this series, I will dig into thoughts and perspectives about the Bible and about Church, before I knew Christ and after.
As a soldier and as a man, it is rare to find someone that understands your plight, that can assure and reassure you that everything will be fine. This is where new communities become vital, most importantly, the family and the church. For I have found no other bond that can replace the camaraderie of arms but that of the church brotherhood (gibborim Soldiers for Christ).
When I joined the military in 1987, it had become my church and the soldiers around me were all part of the same congregation. It had structure, rules, and informal and formal norms that you were required to live by in order to survive. My colleagues and fellow soldier, my insecurities aside, kept each other sane, comforted in distress, and focused on the prize. It is no wonder that within a year after retiring from the military in 2007, I was lost. And then, He found me, in 2008, and a new brotherhood was introduced into my life. It is no longer about the blood of my fellow Soldiers, though that is still a part of me. It is now about the blood of Christ.
In my twenty years of service, the greatest fear that gripped my heart was that I would let my buddies down in the discharge of my duties, or that I would disgrace my family. Likewise, the body of Christ is a team sport, with all members making up the body. If one should “fail,” then the body would feel it. However, if one should “fall,” then the body would ensure that no member would be left behind. Each member of the body is there to assure that everything will be all right. The brotherhood of Christ, the gibborim, is there for you. You simply need to seek and then ask.
My Wilderness Journey is not unique, nor does it even come close to the degree of trauma and experiences of other men. Some may even consider my life to be a mere whisper as compared to theirs. To this you will get no disagreement, no argument – but what you will get is “Praise God! Glory to God!! Hallelujah. I am excited that we are brothers – Soldiers for Christ!” You will then hear me declare, “Lets mobilize and go on a mission together to save other men, many of whom have lived lives even harder than you and me! Let’s Follow Him!”.
I spent too many years trying to understand my life when what I should have been seeking was to understand His Life. I was conforming to the way the world wanted me to be versus conforming to the way He wanted me to be. I was seeking the appreciation and respect of men when I should have been seeking Him, whom I already had respect and admiration. And I was seeking love from people when I should have been receiving love from Him, and He already loved me the way I was. That void in my life, the one that made me feel like something was off, the one that made me feel like I did not belong, was the emptiness set aside for the River of Living Water. This was the River that I was searching for, the River what would serve as the path out of my wilderness.
We are all on a Wilderness Journey, sometimes we revisit that wilderness, serving as an exploration for what it is that makes us who we are. For me, that required that I ask the Lord to reveal things to me not just about myself, but also about my father and my grandfather; reasons that will become clear to you as you read this book. And this, this right here, is why my eyes were filled with tears from the onset of writing this chapter. I held a lot of blame, remorse, anger, and bitterness at my father and grandfather for several decades, for making me feel helpless, tangling me into something that I could not understand. I now know the truth and the truth has made me understand that I was wrong and has set me free from that bondage I was in. I had allowed my world, and forces around me, to manipulate me. And I blamed the wrong ones for it.
My entire life has been one long search for identity and significance in this life. After being born again, I continued to seek my identity and significance in this life, but now I knew that I was already secure for the next life, the one that I will enter into after I leave this earth. This was my Wilderness Project.
The warrior spirit is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. During the three wars I participated in during my military career, I was eager to engage what I thought of as the warrior spirit, but I was only engaging in self. As we view our own individual lives via the internal video playback in our heads, we are confronted with a series of revelations. I knew that my experiences in combat operations and combat support were significant to me but I had not realized the full extent. Prior to September 2008, I had been blinded by sin and my own personal desires. Then I got born again. And then, just as I started to heal my wounds, the devil rallied and started to inflict new ones while trying to revisit old ones.
After my born-again experience in 2008, the following weeks that followed were a blur of regular and frequent revelations of what had been my reality up to that point – revelation after revelation. The Holy Spirit had quickened my soul and I was reborn. I had been blind to my self-directed actions and behavior; but now I was able to see. I knew I was flawed but not to the magnitude that I now realize. This was not bad news; this was good news, for I now knew where and what needed correction – and how to do it. What I needed was the humility to seek help and the courage to confess my shortcomings and flaws that needed to be scraped away. I needed to eat some crow and humble pie.
As a man with a heart set aright, I know who I am, where I am, and the good that God is doing in my life. I recognize that my heart is fragile but I have learned how to guard it. My warrior heart, and yours, is needed. Jesus is a Warrior and He is your source of inspiration; Spiritual warfare can be difficult for some to comprehend, but the Bible constantly exhorts men to remain strong, have courage, and to [frequently] consecrate themselves.
To have victory we must get to the place where we no longer let events drag us down. If approval is what you seek and it is still withheld, abandon your bitterness towards the one who withholds your approval. Abandon your bitterness towards what you believe life in general has dealt you. If you want to be encouraged but still feel like you’ve been deliberately cut off, then you have the option of choosing to believe for a coming season of fruitfulness in those very same areas. It’s your choice, and it won’t happen until you choose. It never helps to allow negative circumstances to mold us into the role and identity of “the victim.” We have a choice as to whether it will be temporary or if it will become our identity. We should be able to say, “I was the victim of blah blah blah but now I’m a specialist in blah blah blah.” There is hope for all. You just need to grasp it and take hold of it in your heart.
The image of God, Christ in you, the mind of Christ, and whatever the Lord has gifted you with is the antidote and remedy you need. You need to take control of that jumbled mess in your victim mentality – the self-fulfilling belief that came out of a bad situation in which you were victimized, or thought you were. Cancel such a belief by tapping into your God-given resources. Let the peace of Christ be the arbiter. There is a truer ministry in righteousness.
The challenge is whether you identify yourself as the victim or the victimizer – and whether you can admit it. I was both, I was a victim and I victimized others, including my wife and my children. How can you see what is in front of you if you fail to recognize what is inside of you? When our own hearts condemn us, there is no power in prayer, no power in preaching. We are just “sounding brass or a clanging symbol” (1 Corinthians 13:1). If you are the victimizer, recognize it and repent to God, He will forgive you. If you feel you are a victim, forgive and repent of your unforgiveness. He is a good God and He will accept you no matter how messed up you think you are. You can join His flock – no matter what.
I had allowed the world to tell me what and who I was supposed to be, and it did not work for me – at all. Paul encourages us to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Who you want to follow is your choice. God is waiting and He will never give up on you! He loves you that much.
This is our revolution, our healing, and our resurrection – to be free from the prisons that hold us captive, to see what few see, and to rise from death with Jesus as His soldiers. Enter the Wilderness Project and see if you can witness what the sheep witnessed and experienced in Breaking Free From the Shadows. Perhaps, just maybe, it may change your views and understanding of your life (purpose), your father (your past), yourself (identity), and the world you live in (significance).